Why Red Meat Is Bad For Your Gut
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If you’ve been reading more of my articles and recipes on Positive Gut, you might have noticed. I hardly use any meat, except for some chicken, in my kitchen and recipes. And this is with good reason. Meat is bad for your gut health, and I’ll tell you why!
In the last decades, meat consumption has increased vastly in the world. If you look at the numbers, in 1961 the average meat consumption per person per year in Europe was 60-80 kg, in 2013 this was 80-100 kg and the numbers keep rising. Apart from the meat industry being bad for the environment (it’s one of the biggest contributors to climate change) and (often) the animals they keep, this rise in meat consumption is also bad for your health. A vegetarian day (or 6….) a week is not a bad idea if you’re suffering from gut issues!
Meat Consumption and Definition
Meat consumption and the use of processed meats in relation to health has been studied on numerous occasions, and the outcome has never looked good. Use of more than 500g of red and processed meat a week has been linked to various health issues.
People often mistake red meat for meat that actually looks red. Red meat is any type of meat from cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. Even if it does not look red, it still is.
Processed meat is any type of meat that has undergone factory processing. Think of sausage, hamburgers, salted or smoked meat, and even preseasoned meat. The processing of the meat can actually cause carcinogenic substances (these are substances that can cause cancer) to form and you want as little as possible of those in your food!
Meat and Gut Health
One of the health issues is heart disease. Studies have shown that the consumption of red meat (specifically L-carnitine that is present in red meat, and also energy drinks) changes your gut microbiota. This change has shown to increase the risk of heart disease. Apart from that, a lower diversity in the gut microbiota has been shown to promote the development of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Another health issue is the development of colon cancer. Numerous studies have shown a link between the consumption of red and processed meat and colon cancer. People who consume more than 500g of red meat and processed meat a week, have a 20-30% higher chance of getting colon cancer. The World Health Organisation states that every 50g of red and processed meat you eat a day increases the risk of getting colon cancer by 18%. That’s a risk worth lowering your meat intake for (in my opinion).
Having an unbalanced and meat-rich diet also helps promote inflammation in the gut and reduce the diversity of your gut bacteria. Your gut bacteria help keep you healthy. If you want to know more about this, read on in my article about Probiotics. So if you do decide to eat meat, make sure you also get your vegetables and/or whole grains in, since your gut bacteria thrive on it!
Meat and Health
Meat is a valuable source of all essential amino acids, Iron, Zinc, Selenium, vitamin B6, B12 and vitamin D. Some of these nutrients are harder to find in big amounts in other foods (especially B12 and Iron). But if you eat meat sometimes, and have a healthy (mostly vegetarian) diet which consists of fruit, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, legumes, fish, chicken, dairy and/or cheese and healthy oils, you can definitely create a wholesome and nutritious food pattern for yourself.
If you decide to go vegan though, I advise you to seek help from a registered dietitian to create a wholesome and balanced diet.
Other than the health issues I listed earlier, meat consumption has also been linked to a higher chance of getting diabetes. But since that is not necessarily a gut health issue, I won’t get into that further.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never eat meat again. For me, I try to keep it out of my diet as much as possible. Then if I do eat it, I make sure to buy a good organic piece of meat and have a generally healthy and fiber-rich diet. Consuming enough fiber (which promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut) and having a wholesome and balanced diet is beneficial for your health and your gut. My advice is to just try and keep your meat intake under 500 grams a week. If you do want it, eat fish or organic chicken. It’s better for your body and better for our planet.
If you want to know more about how to choose a good type of fish, read on in my Sushi Recipe.
Have you ever tried vegetarian meat replacements? Or do you cook vegetarian in your own way? Let me know what you think!
Hi there, I’m Manon.
In my daily life I work as a registered dietitian in the Netherlands with a special interest in gut health.
During my workday I get loads of questions about healthy food, recipes and lifestyle to make it a little easier to get healthy. On Positive Gut I collect my best recommendations, tips and recipes to make your healthy lifestyle a little easier!